The Civic-Minded Associate Dean

Stephen J. Conroy, PhD, associate dean of undergraduate programs

Saturday, October 22, 2016TOPICS: Leadership

Steve ConroySteve Conroy, associate dean of undergraduate programs
begin quote“We want students to see business as a force for good—to ask themselves how they can use this powerful lever to improve peace and prosperity around the world.

When Steve Conroy looks at USD School of Business students and alumni, he doesn’t just see bright minds. He sees future changemakers. “We want students to see business as a force for good," says Conroy. "We want them to ask themselves how they can use this powerful lever to improve peace and prosperity around the world."

One of the many ways Conroy helps students see the bigger picture is by encouraging them to participate in events like the Social Innovation Challenge (“SIC”) and the Venture Vetting (“V2”) Competition. In the SIC, students compete with one another to create viable social ventures that help solve social, economic, environmental or peace issues.  

“Students come up with all kinds of ingenious ways to have a social impact,” says Conroy. “They get to think not just theoretically, but also about how their businesses will actually impact society.” Through exercises like SIC, Conroy has witnessed students go on to create businesses like water filtration systems for cleaner living and specially-designed toilet seats for people who’ve lost limbs to landmines.

Deepening the opportunity to learn.

As students put their social entrepreneurship to practice, Conroy and his colleagues challenge them to cultivate another crucial skill: mastering the lost art of communication. “In the world of digital communications and technology, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of face-to-face, one-on-one communication. We believe it is more important than ever to have real communication between students and faculty.” 

“Undergrads have full attention from faculty.”

Conroy believes the smaller class sizes at the School of Business make it easier to deepen communication skills. And, smaller cohorts mean that students can get a tighter grasp on learning—and more face time with professors. Introductory business classes, like Principles of Macroeconomics, cap out at 40 students while first-semester preceptorial classes cap out at 20. And you won’t see any graduate students teaching them. “Undergrads have full attention from faculty,” says Conroy. “While we have some outstanding graduate programs, our undergraduate students don’t compete with PhD’s for faculty time.”

This includes research. At the School of Business, great student ideas don’t just get applauded. They get published. “We encourage faculty to publish with undergraduate business students,” says Conroy, who has co-authored papers with undergrads in multiple academic journals over the course of his tenure at USD. 

“We encourage faculty to publish with undergraduate business students.”

Conroy feels a great sense of pride when he sees bright-eyed freshmen transform into movers and shakers in their communities. “Early on their training is more foundational and technical. But by the time they’re seniors, many have participated in internships, experiential learning, and immersion programs. And, the classes become more project based. They learn to apply the course content to real-world experiences.”  

The proof is in the feedback. For example, for the 2013-14 academic year, fully 93 percent of graduates received their first job offer within three months of graduating. Of this group, 71 percent received their offer while still in school.

“Employers love our students,” says Conroy. “After learning how to become highly-skilled and at the same time thoughtful, ethical leaders, they graduate with a greater sense of their importance in the world–and how they can leave the best impact on their communities for generations to come.” 


Amy Schmitz
(619) 260-4658